The Wall Street Journal's editorial board issued a serious warning to Mitt Romney on Wednesday night, blasting the presumptive Republican nominee and his campaign for potentially "squandering an historic opportunity."
The message was penned to Romney via an op-ed, titled "Romney's Tax Confusion," in response to his campaign's seesawing over whether the individual mandate contained in President Barack Obama's health care law is a tax or a penalty.
On Wednesday, Romney told CBS News he agrees with the Supreme Court ruling that the individual mandate is a tax, a direct contradiction to what his top adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, said earlier this week. Fehrnstrom had referred to the mandate as a penalty, a line that was echoed by campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul, who said Romney "thinks [the mandate] is an unconstitutional penalty."
According to the Journal, if Romney loses his presidential bid, the health care tax snafu could prove to be the turning point. It also makes the Romney campaign look "confused in addition to being politically dumb," while feeding the former Massachusetts governor's reputation of being a flip-flopper, the Journal said.
The op-ed also assailed Romney for partaking in a seemingly expensive vacation as the Obama campaign repeatedly knocked him for being out of touch and as the president continues to capitalize on Romney's recently exposed outsourcing record. "If the Boston boys let that one go unanswered," the piece says, "they ought to be fired for malpractice."
Romney's campaign strategy so far has been to pivot all points of discussion to Obama's failed economic record, but according to the Journal, voters would benefit from actually learning why Romney's policies would fare any better -- something his campaign has yet to elaborate on.
Meanwhile, Obama's attack lines against Romney have proved effective. A series of polls have shown the president leading Romney in key swing states, signalling more trouble for the presumptive Republican candidate leading up to November.
Read excerpts from the op-ed below:
This latest mistake is of a piece with the campaign's insular staff and strategy that are slowly squandering an historic opportunity. Mr. Obama is being hurt by an economic recovery that is weakening for the third time in three years. But Mr. Romney hasn't been able to take advantage, and if anything he is losing ground.
The Romney campaign thinks it can play it safe and coast to the White House by saying the economy stinks and it's Mr. Obama's fault. We're on its email list and the main daily message from the campaign is that "Obama isn't working." Thanks, guys, but Americans already know that. What they want to hear from the challenger is some understanding of why the President's policies aren't working and how Mr. Romney's policies will do better.
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is assailing Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch rich man, and the rich man obliged by vacationing this week at his lake-side home with a jet-ski cameo. Team Obama is pounding him for Bain Capital, and until a recent ad in Ohio the Romney campaign has been slow to respond.
Mr. Romney promised Republicans he was the best man to make the case against President Obama, whom they desperately want to defeat. So far Mr. Romney is letting them down.